Written by Lee Stoerzinger, CFP®
One of the things most often discussed as we guide people through wealth and legacy planning is the topic of sharing assets with the next generation. There are many things to think about and it can be one of the more complex pieces of the puzzle. We thought it would be valuable to go through some of the issues people often face, as well as share some thoughts on best practices.
There comes a time in life when we are all forced to think about what we wish to do with our wealth when we are no longer here. The first stage might be concerns about making sure a surviving spouse is going to be okay financially, have health care, etc. Once that is determined and satisfied, the topic often turns to providing for surviving children. Do we give them any of our assets now to help our estate plan? What if some of the children are not emotionally prepared to deal with the funds? But what if some are and could really use it? Where does charitable planning fit in? And what if it turns out that we need the funds ourselves? Often the greatest fear is having to depend on others for our well-being. As you can see the conversation can often turn in different directions as these are some of the most important decisions we will ever make in our lives.
All of the items above are good questions that need to be addressed along the way. Planning to be sure we have “enough” as we define it for our needs is of primary importance. Plus, making sure adult children are in a place where they will be good stewards of all we build could be an entire discussion by itself. In addition, sometimes there are minor children or special needs that need to be accounted through complex legal agreements. Charitable planning needs to be outlined and hopefully explained to all involved so there are no surprises and expectations are met. However, when all of these items fall into place, then what?
Determining whether to share wealth with our children is an emotional venture with varying dynamics. So many things come into play. However, when the time is right and the opportunities present themselves, we have found that they can literally be life changing for all involved. The chance to help a child fund their first home, assist in the education of grandchildren, or even just provide financial support along the way can fill gaps that can change the projection of your children’s lives. Much of the time, they may need the funds more now than through your estate, as they will more than likely be in a good situation by then. As a matter of fact, your gift now just might guarantee it.
There will always be ways we can fill our hearts with doubt about how things might happen when we share our gifts. We have all heard stories. Maybe they won’t use the funds exactly how we wished, or even make really bad decisions. Maybe. One thing which may help is getting together with your family, sharing your vision, and allowing them to be involved in what you want your legacy to be. Then, when the chance to share your wealth with them arises, you will be prepared both financially and emotionally to carry them into the future. There are not many things in life more powerful than that. We have seen it in action many times, and it is a joy to watch.